Cacao facial mask
Swimming in waterfall
Free walking tours
Met really nice people
Coloured Colombian streets
Tallest palm trees in the world
Getting a Tuktuk
After spending 3 and a half weeks in Colombia, we have seen and experienced quite a bit. From the dried out nature in the north, to the long bus rides to the south. From the TukTuk driver who told us that he had been to our country 47 times because he was transporting “hashies”, to the tallest palm trees in the world.
The first two weeks in the dry north
For convenience I divide the country between north and south, ignoring the layout of Colombia’s provinces. On March 10 we arrived in Barranquilla, the city of Shakira (unfortunately we haven’t seen her). What we noticed immediately when we arrived in Colombia was that the locals here are a lot more patient and friendly than in Panama. As soon as they heard our “Spanish”, they kindly smiled and kept repeating the words until we understood them. This friendliness of the locals fortunately continued until the end of our Colombia adventure.
Barranquilla is not that exciting so after doing our laundry in the Airbnb, we left for Santa Marta by bus. Santa Marta is a city with a lot of history but which is not really well maintained; many empty buildings and buildings that were falling apart. It’s a good place to do different day trips. However, the trip we chose is not one we would recommend. After an hour of snorkelling with 100 tourists on a few square meters (which by the way was super beautiful!) We were dropped on a beach (Bahia Concha) where we were sandblasted for 6 hours. On the bright side: we have met 2 super nice Argentinians, with whom we talked all day about music, Primark and the Spanish language. We’re definitely going to try and meet up with them when we’re in Buenos Aires!
From Santa Marta we went to Minca, where we did some chilling but also walked a lot. Climbing up steeply from the hostel for two hours to reach a cacao and coffee plantation: it is all part of the trip! During the cacao tour we learned a lot – for example, that the largest producers of cocoa are not the largest consumers – and we were presented with a delicious cacao facial mask. From Minca we went back to Santa Marta where we spent one more day among the homeless Venezuelans and in the Gold museum. And then off to Cartagena!
Whereas in Santa Marta we could still close our eyes to the sunglasses vendors who tried to sell marijuana; in Cartagena really couldn’t ignore it anymore. On every corner of the street another salesman came to us – actually only to Jacob – to sell us all kinds of illegal things. Cartagena is really super nice, only this does ruin the atmosphere a bit. Nevertheless, Cartagena was fantastic. We finally had the feeling of being in Colombia because of the nice coloured streets, the delicious street food and the colonial old town. And that extra bit of atmosphere that penetrated our noses from the open sewer and those drug sellers.. Ah well, we took that for granted.
Venezuelans in Santa Marta
The most impressive in Santa Marta were all the homeless people from Venezuela. One sat on the street selling bags he had folded from the Venuozela money bills that are no longer worth anything, the other sang a song, another asked for food or drink and so they all had their ways of surviving. Looking at the clothing, these people were very prosperous in their own country, only the gap between rich and poor has become so enormous because of Maduro that these people unfortunately ended up in the lower half. We took the food that we didn’t eat in the restaurant to the homeless, as well as the change from the supermarket and half-drunk bottles of coke and water. I don’t have the words to describe our feelings during those moments.
The green, rainy south of Colombia
On Medellin, which is actually in the middle, I make my gross separation between North and South Colombia. From Medellin the landscape suddenly became green! We hadn’t prepared ourselves for the dry season on the Caribbean coast, so it was quite a bummer that everything was grey and brown the first few weeks.
So, once in Medellin everything turned green. Fantastic! We had a very nice Guesthouse (61 Prado Guesthouse for everyone who is also planning to visit Medellin) with a nice view of the city and great food. We did a free walking tour here and took the cable metro to the top of a mountain where the Arví Park is located. We – especially me – are very impressed with the size of the city and I cannot imagine anything about the size of the cities that we are going to see in Brazil! From Medellin made trip to Guatapé and Piedra el Peñol. For this I would like to refer you to the in the beginning, which will say more than my textual explanation ;-).
After Medellin it was time for the fantastic bus trip to Salento. Without exaggerating, we made more than 1500 turns in 7 hours, and that did not go down well with Job. And once arrived at the hostel, it turned out that the mattress is like a pool with quicksand and the wifi was awfully slow. The last was especially annoying since it took us 3,5 hours to book our flights to Quito. BUT, the location was great and that horse had breakfast with the guests and those lovely dogs too.
The top attraction in Salento is El Valle de Cocora. In this valley you will find the tallest palm trees in the world (about 60 meters high) and during the hike you have a wonderful view! Only the case is, that it seems to be raining and cloudy for more than half of the year, which is somewhat obstructing your view. It was nevertheless amazing to do the hike and to see the palm trees (and the clouds).
The key question: Are we still enjoying ourselves?
Yes! It is very special to discover this country and this culture. We are very happy with all the beautiful, positive things that we have already experienced. But traveling is, as everyone hopefully knows, not all rainbows and butterflies. Of course we’ve already had a couple of discussions about money, hostels, and taking the bus or plane, but that is all human. We’ve met another couple and it appears that they have the same discussions. Our Spanish is by the way a bit mediocre. Jacob speaks 10 words and I 10 sentences. But with a lot of patience, a sweet smile and the good advice we received from the home front, everything will be fine.
We are gradually continuing our journey to one of the places we are most looking forward to: the Galapagos Islands! At the moment we are at our last stop in Colombia before flying out to Quito: Armenia. After a week we finally have a hard mattress and fast wifi. That means we can now work for Travellingester and YOMS without any frustration.
And of course we’re happily looking back to the good moments in Colombia and we can already laugh about some of the lesser moments. We look forward to your comments and will, of course, keep you posted!
Saludos a Abel!
Abel is a Colombian man I met on the bus. When our bus from Santa Marta to Cartagena broke down around the corner of departure bus terminal, we had to change buses. After 45 minutes of chaos and a bus driver who had walked away angrily, our saviour suddenly arrived: a bus from another company that had 5 spots left. Jacob and I, a German couple and a Colombian man were the lucky ones to take these spots. And in this bus I sat next to Abel.
Abel and I chatted all the way to Barranquilla (that was the stop he had to get out), which was very intensive for me because I wanted to speak Spanish and tried to understand. Abel fortunately fully understood that it was hard for me and occasionally we laughed at each other when I did not understand something. After 2.5 hours of effort my brain was starting to hurt a little. However, it was a lot of fun and I even got some products from Abel to take care of my hands and feet. Turns out he works in cosmetics! With a bit of luck, Abel reads this blog and the greetings I promised him. Saludos Abel!
Mattresses like a pool of quicksand
Taking 3,5 hour to book flights because of bad WiFi.
Jacob looks frightened at my arm and backs away slowly… E: “What’s the matter?!” J: “There’s a really big, nasty, creature on your arm”. I didn’t see the creature myself because I started flapping my arm so wildly that the dog thought I was playing with him and started to bite my arms and legs. In the end we managed to get rid of the dog and the insect.